WALNUT CREEK (KPIX 5) – The city of Walnut Creek is considering a plan to offer cash lifelines to businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while it may not solve their financial problems, it may offer a way to hang on until real help can arrive.

Much of Walnut Creek’s fortunes ride on the success of its restaurants and nightspots. There are 117 restaurants and bars in its downtown area alone.  But with the coronavirus shutting so many of them down, the city is desperately looking for a way to help them survive.

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Walnut Creek created a community task force called the Rebound Committee to help restaurants pivot to outdoor dining.

Henry Bui opened Chicken Pie Shop three years ago and it was just beginning to make money when the pandemic hit.  So he invested in an outdoor space and said his clientele was beginning to grow.

“I was kind of happy, like, oh my God, it looks good! But then we had to shut down again, outdoor and indoor.  Look at this place,” Bui said, pointing to the empty rooms with chairs stacked on tables. “It’s like, I don’t know what to say.”

Inside Chicken Pie Shop in Walnut Creek, which has been forced to close its dining room and only offer takeout and delivery due to COVID-19 restrictions, December 15, 2020. (CBS)

Inside Chicken Pie Shop in Walnut Creek, which has been forced to close its dining room and only offer takeout and delivery due to COVID-19 restrictions, December 15, 2020. (CBS)

Mayor Kevin Wilk said he feels Henry’s, and every other restaurant owner’s pain.

“Here we get to a point where restaurants are just starting to make some headway,” Wilk said, “and then everything shuts on them. And now they’re not allowed to do business outside of takeout and delivery. It’s very tough.”

Wilk said the city has between a quarter and half a million dollars in unspent sales tax money and Tuesday night the Council discussed setting up a grant program to try to keep businesses afloat.

The details have not been worked out yet but the mayor said with a finite amount of money, they’ll be looking for the most effective way to spend it, which could involve the restaurants.

Jay Hoyer, the Chamber of Commerce CEO said there’s not a lot of time to spare.

“Everybody has an end point where, ‘I can’t go any further,'” he said. “And we’re seeing restaurants drop, we’re seeing a lot of businesses drop. They just can’t go any further.”

The vaccine offers hope, but that’s a long-term solution.

For now, city leaders are hoping Congress will approve an economic package that will offer small businesses real relief, and maybe a way to survive.